As a food blogger who has a special love for photography, it’s normal for me to be on the lookout for photography gear whether it be cameras or smartphones with major photography capabilities. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to one of the newest offerings from ASUS recently: the ASUS ZenFone2 Laser 5.0. This is a beautiful fast-functioning phone that wants to capture the attention of “photo-savvies”, aka people who like taking pictures of just about anything (me!), so I was more than happy to take this out for a test run.
After two weeks of using this, I’m finally going to share with you my experiences. I’m going to keep all the technical mumbo-jumbo to just the important bits since I’m not an expert in that aspect, but not to worry, I’ll be talking about all the things I feel are important and relevant to me in this review.
There are four main things that I look for in a phone before I even consider buying it– good camera quality; long battery life; usability of the phone’s operating system; and a price tag I can afford. Of course, the phone being pretty does not hurt one bit!
All these things considered, I just want to start by saying I was highly impressed by this piece of machinery. At an SRP of below Php 7,500, the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser 5.0 definitely gives you a bang for your buck!
ON THE SURFACE
As I was doing some background research on this phone, I realized ASUS kind of has a confusing lineup in terms of naming their ZenFones. To be clear, this particular model I received is the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser 5.0 ZE500KL model. It boasts 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory, which can be extended up to 128GB using a microSD card.
Here’s a useful infographic comparing the previous ASUS Zenfone with the current model:
The ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser 5.0 looks extremely classy, what with a metallic finish at the back. That silver oblong in the middle is the volume control that doubles as a selfie button. ASUS decided not to put any buttons on the side of the phone to keep it more ergonomic.
Speaking of ergonomic, I love holding this phone! It’s super thin at 3.9mm, but it has a curved back to comfortably fit your palm and offer best grip. When you set it down on the table, it looks super sleek and super sexy. And it seriously looks about 5 times more expensive than it actually is.
The front of the phone carries the trademark gorgeous concentric circle design of the ZenFone line, coupled with a 5.0-inch HD (720p x 1280p) IPS display. Thanks to the ASUS TruVivid Technology, the display is clear, bright, and well… vivid. Reflection on the glass is also kept at a minimum, and swiping is super smooth.
Aside from an anti-fingerprint glass, this phone is also equipped with Corning Gorilla Glass 4, which means it has good protection against scratches, and it doesn’t get damaged easily from being dropped. You can actually feel the sturdiness of the Gorilla Glass when you hold or run your hand over the phone. I also want to mention that the screen supports glove touch, which is awesome for travel photography in cold countries. 😉
The cooler part is that the phone is responsive to your finger’s touch even if there are water droplets or grease on your screen. This is super useful for when I’m shooting behind-the-scene photos from the kitchen using my phone. Sometimes I can’t help but accidentally get stuff on there!
My biggest gripe about Android smartphones has always been the lag when I swipe, but I was pleasantly surprised by how responsive this was! With its record-breaking touch response time of just 60 milliseconds, I agree that it’s much faster than most Android smartphones I’ve ever tried. The experience of using this phone is smooth even as you open several apps and do your thing.
I should also mention that the speed of this phone is due to the fact that it uses the Andoird Lolipop 5.0 operating system, plus a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 Quad-core 1.2Ghz CPU. On top of that, ASUS developed the ZenUI to make the phone’s interface more user-friendly and clutter-free, plus you can customize it at your heart’s content.
One of my favourite parts about the ZenUI is the Touch Gestures made possible by built-in Zen Motion on the phone. Even when the phone is asleep, drawing a big “C” on the black screen will automatically take you to the Camera app. I also love the Double Tap function that allows you to wake up the phone or put it to sleep.
These two are my most used Touch Gestures, but here are the other touch gestures that are pretty dang useful: “O” to launch the calendar, and “V” to launch the dialer. If you write “W” it will take you to the Internet browser, and a small “e” opens up the e-mail. The Touch Gestures save time and effort for sure!
I also found out that if you buy a case for the phone, you can swipe through this circle to get to your apps! (Just fyi, bought the case with my own money. It is not included with the phone!)
Another highlight of this phone for me is the surprising battery life. I put it to the test one Sunday, spending a lot of time playing Cooking Fever (yes, I’m the food blogger who likes to cook in real life as well as my smartphone games hahaha!) and then shooting restaurant shots in between. I was constantly on Instagram and checking my e-mails via Wi-Fi. Before that, I filmed a couple of videos and shot some food shots for this review too, and I still got a good 10+ hours of use before the battery went low. No overheating problems either.
For days when I don’t use the phone heavily, it can even last me up to over two days! This is probably the first smartphone I ever used that I don’t charge daily. That to me is a pretty big deal. I even downloaded an app that helps optimize my phone’s performance and that increased my battery life to maybe half an hour more. And since the battery isn’t built-in, you can actually replace it when it no longer performs at its peak.
Added battery life means more usage time for the phone owner, luckily ASUS thought about that and added their ASUS Splendid feature to the phone. The phone has a filter that reduces blue-light emissions by up to 30% so there’s less strain on the eyes while using the phone. I think this one is a good claim, since as I mentioned, I played a lot of Cooking Fever and my wrist would start hurting even before my eyes ever did hahaha!
LET’S TALK CAMERAS
Okay, so this is where I get a little more nitpicky! I snapped a bunch of photos for you guys just to show you exactly how this one fared and in my opinion, while it certainly cannot rival a DSLR by far, its camera capabilities are pretty spot-on for the price point.
The ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser 5.0 has two cameras: the front camera and the rear camera. The front aka selfie cam is only 5-Megapixels while the back has an 8-Megapixel camera. It is the first smartphone in its price range to have an 8-MP camera PLUS a laser-auto focus. On the front along with the 5-MP camera is a dual-LED real tone flash.
How laser is the laser auto-focus? It actually works even faster than if you tap to focus! If you move the camera even just a little the focus will automatically find a subject to latch on in a heartbeat. The fine print says it takes the phone a mere 0.3 seconds to focus.
If you’ll notice the back of the phone, that black oblong beside the camera lens is actually the laser autofocus technology. Using infrared laser, it measures distances at lightning speed to facilitate that quick focusing. When you’re shooting in Auto mode and it’s a bit too dark, sometimes the flash on the other side of the camera lens lights up for a second to help compensate for the lack of light while you’re trying to compose your picture. Usually it happens indoors and when you tap to focus too many times.
Not to worry though, once you find your stride with the camera it can work wonderfully well. Here’s a sample of the shooting process. On the left, the screen registered a little too brightly when I shot it using my actual camera for you guys, but on the right you can see the result of the shot. I didn’t edit that at all and I was shooting indoor with low light as well.
The phone uses a f/2.0 Toshiba lens, which is an aperture that can give you good images thanks to a good ability to draw light through the lens. Along with the laser autofocus, this is how the phone is able to have decent low-light capabilities as well. Take a look at some photos I took from the time we had dinner at Ippudo Ramen:
The restaurant’s ambient lighting is fairly dark, so the photos were noticeably less crisp than if there was more light involved. The photo definitely becomes more grainy the less the light source. However I did end up posting one of the photos up on Instagram, and as you can see, the exposure of the photo can be improved largely with the help of editing.
Last night's dinner at @ippudoph involved a nicely spicy Karaka Tamago Ramen for me, and a taste test of their new Gyokai Ramen– a classic and comforting bowl of tonkotsu-chicken broth ramen, seasoned with bonito and yuzu kosho pepper, topped with tamago, bamboo, and melt-in-your-mouth chashu. Big thanks to the staff of Ippudo Ermita for the extra bowl! 🙂
Basic rules of photography apply here, because where you focus will still affect the overall exposure levels of your photo. It’s more challenging to find a balance with this phone because it can go overexposed to underexposed in as fast as it takes for the laser autofocus to adjust from one object to another. Obviously the best shooting conditions would be outdoor, where you have ample, well-distributed lighting.
Shooting in a garden in the morning yielded an image that was vivid and very true-to-life in colour. The focus here was on the flower so that’s where the image is most sharp; however you might notice some graininess in the background. No edits were done to the below picture.
Some smartphone cameras, and even many SLR cameras without a macro lens on, have a hard time focusing on things that are very near. The ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser performed rather well on this aspect, because the moment I moved the camera close to the subject it focused in an instant. For this shot I held the camera about maybe an inch away from the flower? Again, did not edit the photo below and was still pretty pleased with how it managed to capture the colours.
I shot all my sample photos for this review using the Auto function then edited externally, following the routine most people do (myself included) when snapping photos for their social media. However, advanced users can choose from any of the many shooting modes this camera offers.
There’s a Manual mode here too that allows you to adjust anything from the ISO, shutter speed, and white balance, to your saturation and contrast. As a rule of thumb, the lower you go with your ISO the less grainy your image will appear, but in order to go low you will need ample light.
I took a shot using the front camera with the “Beautification” pore-erasing mode on inside a fairly low-lighting environment and as you can see on the unedited photo on the left, my face got washed out. So I turned to my friend VSCO to help bring back the colour to my face. I tried the Panorama Selfie mode too (140-degree selfies anyone?) but I still have to figure out how to make it work. 😛
Here are more shots I took under natural lighting but using various degrees of light, and as you can see, as long as you give this camera ample light to work with, it will give you some really Instagram-worthy photos!
I also tried out the video capabilities of the phone. The maximum video resolution of this phone is 1920 x 1080 Full HD, with some video stabilization to boot. The autofocus still works but I prefer touching to focus when it comes to video. Here’s a sample video I shot at default video settings in our garden under morning light:
And because I couldn’t resist, I just had to try out the slow mo function of the camera as well. I thought it would be nice to take “sports shots” for this so I had my brother film me bumping a volleyball.
At a price point of less than Php 7,500, I think the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser 5.0 is definitely a solid option for those who are looking to buy a good performing smartphone– not just in terms of the camera but as a whole– that does not break the bank. Overall, I like this phone very much thanks to its snappy performance and the glass of the touch screen. I was majorly impressed by how long-lasting the battery was as well.
Oh, and I need to make a special mention for the Touch Gestures that I absolutely love as shortcuts for the phone. The double tap is very useful, as is drawing the “C” to take you to the camera. No more needing to swipe to unlock and then looking for that little camera icon!
As for the camera, well, at 8-Megapixels it gives you exactly what you might expect. With the help of the laser autofocus function of the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser 5.0, the images come out decently, but add to that some editing software and you can definitely make it work. The camera is good enough for those who like to post on Instagram or Facebook, whether it be photos or videos. I can definitely see a lot of high school and college students going for this sort of phone: very classy-looking and can definitely manage all the heavy usage!
Full disclosure: This post was sponsored by ASUS Philippines, but all opinions stated above are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep The Tummy Train up and running!